Sublime Acts of Poetic Imagination – Two Projects of Luis Barragán

By Alex Colucci

In his 1980 Pritzker Architecture Prize acceptance speech, Luis Barragán said: “It is alarming that publications devoted to architecture have banished from their pages the words Beauty, Inspiration, Magic, Spellbound, Enchantment, as well as the concepts of Serenity, Silence, Intimacy and Amazement.” 

He went on to speak about the importance of the architect to “know how to see,” and to not be overcome by the impulse to rationally analyze all that is in front of you.  While his forms may be recognizable relics of the modernist movement that swept the field during his time of practice, his distinct adaptations and reliance on the characteristics of unassuming Mexican traditions help him capture and illuminate these “banished” words so vital to his architecture.  It is for these reasons the Pritzker Prize committee called his body of work “a sublime act of poetic imagination.”

The following images are my own attempt to see these acts as, hopefully, he meant all of us to see them.  And to capture the words and concepts he wished to return to the practice of architecture.

Casa Luis Barragán – Mexico City, 1947

Cuadra San Cristóbal – Los Clubes Subdivision, suburb of Mexico City, 1968

A final word - Louis Kahn, in describing the house that Barragán designed for himself in Mexico City, stated: “His house is not merely a house but House itself.  Anyone could feel at home.  Its material is traditional; its character eternal.”  There is perhaps no greater end to strive for, than these words from one master architect describing the work of another.